Tag Archives: arts one

A response to Jake’s question and a theory of my own

(Preface: This was originally a comment on Jake’s original blog post which can be found here, but it turned out to be reeeaaally long, so I thought it would be easier and more appropriate to publish a separate blog post. That’s why I talk in second person in this.)

You have a a compeling argument here and I can see where the desire to show John (I don’t consider myself his friend or all that sympathetic towards him so I’m reluctant to call him Scottie) in a more flattering light comes from. I still have some objections to what you say though.


Judy and John’s first real kiss; Vertigo. Hitchcock, Alfred. Time stamp: (approx.) 01:56:54

In your first point, you say that John didn’t have a fetish with Madeleine’s image but instead wanted to change Judy because she WAS Madeleine. You seem to imply here, then, that John knew from the beginning that he knew that Judy = Madeleine. I really doubt that is the case, because a) why did it take him until Judy put on the red necklace to have the epiphany that Judy = Madeleine? and b) why didn’t he just straight up confront Judy? He could have so easily come out and made his case. He was a lawyer to begin with, after all. Why didn’t he do just that? And if your theory about him not fully believing that Madeleine was dead, is correct, then all the more reason to ask Judy straight up. Instead he goes to rather extreme lengths to buy the exact same dresses that Madeleine wore for Judy. He forces her to dye her hair blonde, and, when she comes back from the salon visibly upset and reluctant to pin her hair up the way that Madeleine did, guilts her into going to the bathroom to do so. And it is after this (and only after this) final touch that turned her into the exact image of Madeleine that he kisses her feverishly and passionately. I can see nothing detective-y about all of this and I certainly disagree that he is not overbearing or controlling.

John being physically abusive; Vertigo. Hitchcock, Alfred. Time stamp: (approx.) 02:04:28 You can't convince me that John is an abusive manipulator after this scene.

John being physically abusive; Vertigo. Hitchcock, Alfred. Time stamp: (approx.) 02:04:28
You can’t convince me that John isn’t an abusive manipulator after this scene.

I do, however, agree that Judy is not a passive woman and yes, she was perfectly capable of denying John’s coercion. And she did. She protests and asserts herself throughout the shopping scene and the hair scene. But like you said, she ultimately wanted the happily ever after with John and the cost was to transform herself into the image of another woman, and so she does. And she’s clearly happy once John finally seems to love her (“I finally have you, don’t I?” 1h59m-ish). Does this mean that Judy more or less consents to the treatment she got? Perhaps. Does that make John’s actions not overbearing or controlling? No. In fact, I would argue that John was aware of the power he had over Judy and abused it in order to get what he wanted. He knew that Judy just wanted him to love her, but he also wouldn’t kiss her on the lips until she had fully transformed into Madeleine’s image (up until then, he only briefly pecked her knuckles and cheek), therefore withholding his love until she did what he wanted her to do. Furthering my point that John is absuive, he even physically had her in a grip when they go back to the church, and when Judy tries to turn back to the car, he jerks her back and pretty much shoves her up the stairs. And then he attacks her, interrogating her about the truth and pushing her around violently. It was honestly such an uncomfortable experience watching that, as a female.

So yes, clearly I think John is a controlling man to say the least, but, as established, Judy is not passive. So he in fact not only controls, but abuses a woman who protests and resists his advances. I seriously cannot see him as simply a detective who wants to solve a case. He just goes way too far and clearly his motivations seem far beyond simply wanting to resolve a case. I mean he goes back to look at the scene of the crime, fine, that’s something a detective would do. But to literally drag a woman up the stairs and throw her against the wall once they reached the very top?

I can, however, see him as a mentally and emotionally unstable person who just wants to be free. I propose, instead, a third option: that John turned Judy into Madeleine in order to recreate the traumatic scene at the church so that he could resolve his vertigo. He actually even says before telling Judy to run up the stairs like Madeleine did: “I tried to get to the top, but I couldn’t. One doesn’t often get a second chance. I want to stop being haunted. You’re my second chance, Judy. You’re my second chance.” (2h02min) It would make sense in relation to the beginning as well, when Midge says that a way that the doctors say could resolve his vertigo is to have another traumatic experience. The first time, with Madeleine, he couldn’t push himself all the way, but when he saw Judy, he grew obsessed, perhaps not only because he thinks he found a dupe for Madeleine but also because he can try again to get better. And when he reaches the top, he proclaims the truth, retelling the real story. Perhaps that was part of the cleansing, an experience of catharsis that was part of the cure. He is, after all, a detective and detectives bring the truth to light. And don’t they say, “the truth will set you free”?

Still, at the end of the day, he clearly is exhibiting signs that he’s disturbed and needs help. Yes, he is abusive, controlling, and manipulative, but maybe it was beyond his control.

Men’s Ways of Seeing Women

Surprise, surprise, I’m talking about something feminist for my presentation, what else is new.

I thought Berger pointed a lot of very profound things in the book, but chapter 3, the chapter in which he evaluated women in paintings, struck me particularly. Firstly, it was the voice that it was written in. It was surprisingly full of conviction, especially considering this is written by an elite-educated, privileged, white male. In fact, it was almost an awkward reading experience as I couldn’t stop remembering that what I was reading was wr

By MarcusObal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By MarcusObal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

itten by a man. But so many parts of what he said made me have those “oh DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN” moments.

And yes, men can be feminists. I don’t doubt that. I wish more were. I’m just saying, I was pleasantly surprised.

While he does point out many, many things that I agree with and also felt strongly about, one thing that I wish he could have gone into was why. Why are men the “ideal viewers”? Why are women posed in these paintings to appeal to men? Why are women portrayed so submissively in European art? I realize that this text is meant to be art criticism, but I think it’s still important to think of what he says and question some of it.

Alternatively, we can think about art that portray men in the nude. For example, consider Michaelangelo’s David (yes, it’s a sculpture, not a painting. Whatever.) Are men still the ideal viewers in this context? Is this sexualized in the same way that nude women are? Why or why not?

And then what about the notorious Abercrombie and Fitch ads featuring chiselled, tanned men on the beach? (I was going to include one here but I didn’t want to go into citing it somehow.) How do we see those differently? How is that more or less violent than seeing women in those positions? Why are women sexualized to the point that their nipples are taboo and censored while men’s aren’t? Who are those ads supposed to appeal to?

I have been reading this all wrong

When I first approached The Bloody Chamber, I admittedly probably got way too excited. This being our first feminist text in Arts One, I wanted to read into everything and I wanted to see all the bits of feminist commentary that is slipped between the lines. Naturally, I wanted to believe that Carter was making some revolutionary and challenging statements about the treatment of females in society, etc., etc. To be fair, she does. She does seem to be making some strong statements about how women are viewed, about sexuality and the beastly, domineering male figure.

However, for some reason, I worked from the impression that Carter was trying to make some overarching, moralizing, feminist statements, and because of this, much of the book confused the heck out of me. Because while Carter was making some hints at feminism, she also seems to put a lot of her characters in the socially constructed boxes that I thought she would be trying to break free from.

Of course, as I have realized, Carter is anything but straight-forward. Clearly the objective of simply breaking free from stereotypes and social constructs would just be far too easy. After lecture on Monday, I walked away from Allard Hall with my head spinning, because there was just so much good content in those 2hrs. Even as I look back at my notes now, I’m, like, “Yes. This is all yes. I love all of this.” All the stuff about female virtue being valued because it restricts women to simply “being” and not “doing”, females being the makers of history rather than slaves, “a free woman in an unfree society will be a monster”, the absurdity of a universal female experience — SO GOOD I WANTED TO SCREAM.

But okay, back to the topic at hand: as Professor Mota pointed out, Carter did not write these stories with the sole purpose of just proving that WOMEN AREN’T JUST ONE DIMENSIONAL DISNEY PRINCESSES WITH NO DESIRES OR INTERESTS OF THEIR OWN. She did manage to achieve this, but she also threw in some curveballs that pissed some of her readers off. None of the women in the stories were really free from the prospect of marriage or living free from the shadows of men. The violent, sexual violation of dead girls. The girl in “The Bloody Chamber” did not actively try to escape from her fate on her own, instead relying on the piano tuner and waiting for her mother. The emphasis on purity and virginity. The fraility of the vampire in “House of Love” waiting for someone to save her. The selling of the girl’s body in “Tiger’s Bride”. How could all of this be included in the book but still consider itself a feminist piece of work, I pondered before the lecture. And still pondering it now.

Professor Mota mentioned that Carter resented the notion of “a universality of female experience”. Then, if you relate that to the four dichotemies of female roles in fairy tales, you can see why Carter possibly chose to rewrite fairy tales – she’s rejecting the idea that females can be put into such positions in the first place, because once you box characters into shells of “The Good Girl” or “The Evil Queen”, “The Madonna” or “The Whore”, etc. it makes it difficult to see the characters in any other ways, therefore stripping of the power to deviate from their descriptions. The princesses in these fairy tales – Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. – they’re certified “Good Girls”. They’re pretty, pure, and virtuous. They just want to save their fathers, or visit their grandmas, or find their One True Loves. Carter takes these Good Girls and gives them sexual desires, self-interests, even murderous intents. But she also does not remove them completely from the Good Girl descriptions. They retain their status as commodities, things to be passed from parents to husbands, and as desiring to be saved, and as sexual objects, but only desirable if they are pure.

What could Carter be trying to do by doing this? Why create unconventional female characters just to restrict them yet again? Why are you so complex, Ms. Carter?! I have a few ideas about all of this, but I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say on this as well. Feminist discourse gets me so heated, but I will do my best to contain myself. When I woke up late on Wednesday, I was literally so upset and I ran to class in record time without putting on makeup. THAT’S how seriously I take this book. Anyway, can’t wait for more discussion on Friday! It’s going to be a good one, I can feel it in my bones.

What the heck is up with “The Snow Child”?!

I haven’t finished reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter yet (about thirty pages to go!), but let me tell you about what I’m feeling because I’m feeling a lot of things.

First of all, FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS ABOUND and this makes me so very happy. Notice that all of the books and movies we have read so far have been by old, snooty, white men (and we will continue to only read books by snooty white men except with this and Toni Morrison – c’mon Arts One, step it up!), so I’m so very pleased that we’re reading something by a woman that’s focused heavily on a female perspective and has so much underlying feminist commentary.

Second, this prose throws Conrad out the window. Like, wow. The writing is gorgeous, cloaked in a rich, gothic atmosphere. It, admittedly, gets too caught up in its prose-y-ness at some parts and gets hard to figure out what exactly is going on (see: The Erl-King), but that’s cool. I don’t always know what’s going on in life, but I, too, pretend to know what I’m doing behind a facade of pretentious adjectives. So I definitely feel you, Angela Carter.

Third, I am a 7 year old girl at heart. I will always love fairy tales, as objectionable as they are. I just love the idea of a bloody, sexual rewrite of fairy tales, especially as they have been bastardized and made cute by Disney, bless his heart.

I have lots to say on pretty much every story I’ve read so far, but in this post, I’ll just ramble a bit about”The Snow Child” because it’s short, but punchy and just has so much going on. If you haven’t read the story yet, go read it. It will take literally 3 minutes. Go. I’ll wait.

Alright, so what the heck, right? There’s a lot going on and a lot to think about, but I’m not sure what to make of it all.

By Paulis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Paulis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s the element of competition between women for the affections of men, for sure. Why did the Count desire “a girl”? Was the Countess getting too old for the Count? Not enough sexual satisfaction? It’s weird because the Count asked for a girl and originally, the queen in Snow White wanted a daughter, so I drew the link between that and the Count wanting a daughter, which is innocent enough until it turns uncomfortable.

Speaking of wanting a daughter, how is it that the Count lists the things he wants in a girl and poof, there she is, naked and ready? Some weird witchcraft going on here, but I won’t question it too much. It kind of reminds me of the rosebush they eventually come upon though – “They came to a bush of roses, all in flower” (Carter 92). It is winter and there is snow all over, as established at the beginning, so how can there be a random bush of roses in bloom? Can we parallel the roses to the girl? Hmm…

Speaking of the girl, it seems significant that she be naked when she appears because she will eventually strip the Countess of her clothes. But why? What’s with the transfer of the Countess’ furs and boots to the girl and what does that represent? The Count’s love being transferred? The Count’s sexual desires? But why the clothes? Being naked can represent being newborn and therefore being pure (which seems to be something Carter tends to play on a lot), so perhaps the girl becoming tainted or socialized by being clothed. But what would it mean for the Countess to lose her clothes? I thought maybe it had something to do with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so I decided to consult Brandon. He explained to me that after Eve and Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they realized that they were naked and that they felt shameful because of it, so they fashioned clothing out of fig leaves and loincloths. In this way, clothes represent the hiding and covering up their bodies, which are a source of shame. Relating this back to the Countess and the girl, perhaps this can be seen as the Countess’ growing shame that she was “losing” to the girl, and her shame becoming more and more exposed. Somehow I’m not convinced that this is the way to look at it, but that’s all I have for now.

And for the rose, what is the significance of it? What does it symbolize? I drew the connection between the girl and the rose bush earlier but I’m not convinced that that’s the way to interpret it. It was the thing that killed the girl and at the end, the Countess touches it and drops it, claiming that “It bites!” (92) So with that, I thought that maybe it represents jealousy – jealousy was what led to the girl dying and it certainly hurts, so that’s definitely a possibility. Or maybe it represents the Count’s love or, to take it to the next level, maybe the patriarchy. In the context of the story though, the rose was what the Countess wanted the girl to pick for her; the Count, taking pity on his wife, lets the girl pick the rose; the rose kills the girl; and the Countess touches the rose and drops it, despite it being what she what she asked for. The strange thing is, when the Countess told the girl to pick up her gloves or fetch her diamond brooch, she has some pre-conceptions about how the act would kill the girl. But when she asks her to pick the rose, she doesn’t say anything about how the rose might kill the girl. So either she knew that the rose would be the girl’s undoing (the previous two times, she “meant” or “thought” that going to pick up the gloves or the brooch would kill the girl) or she didn’t know or mean for that to kill the girl and just simply wanted a rose. That would change the meaning of the rose altogether, but I’m not sure how to interpret it. And why did the rose bite at the end? If it’s a symbol for the girl, it could simply be the girl taking revenge, but like I said, I’m not sure that’s what the rose is symbolizing. I have no idea.

And then I just have so many questions about the necrophilia. If the Count meant for the girl to be his daughter, then the sex takes on a whole new edge of incest. And perhaps pedophilia, if the girl was a child (which, as the title says, she probably was.) But why did he do that and what does it mean? As if it couldn’t get weirder, the Countess stands by passively and watches him do the deed, not stopping him or anything. You would think, considering her jealousy, she would react differently, but it’s all good. It seems that as long as the girl dies, she’s fine with it – which comes with the idea of women and competition amongst each other, again, and women destroying women. As for the Count, the sex seems to either be his end goal or he has a corpse fetish. He either wanted to have sex with the girl all along and did it to her even though she was dead, OR he has a thing for dead girls and did it because she was dead. Also, how can we relate this thing to the contruct of masculinity and the patriarchy? And why doesn’t the girl ever get to say anything? What’s the connection between a creepy necrophiliac, his murderous wife, and a mute girl they manipulate and kill? I’ll have to think about this a little more, but I’m sure there is a rational explanation for ALL  of this.

This is getting super long, but it’s amazing how much can come out of a tiny little one-page short story. I just had a lot of thoughts I needed to deposit somewhere and try to make sense of. I’m doing a presentation on Bloody Chamber in the coming week, but I’m not even sure I will be talking about this story because there’s just so much I want to talk about. For now this is just a collection of thoughts and maybes.

Thanks for reading my ramblings once again and if you didn’t read them, tl;dr what the heck is up with “The Snow Child”?! Hope you’re enjoying The Bloody Chamber as much as I am and I’m so looking forward to the discussions that will come out of it!

AMENDMENT (Jan 25th): I just went through our Arts One texts and counted. We’re also going to be reading David Dabydeen, Stephanie Strickland, Laura Mulvey, and Osamu Tezuka. Still, out of 31+ texts and movies, only 6 are by women or racial minorities…

Getting feminist about Kleist

Virgin Mary by Sassoferrato, 17th century. Lobkowicz Palace, Prague, Czech Republic. (Wikimedia Commons; Public domain)

In my last paper for this term in Arts One, I went the feminist-y route (my preferred route 124856% of the time) and wrote about the problematic representation of women in “The Sandman” and “Little Snow-White” (particularly with the importance beauty and appearance rather than brains). I wanted to also write about “Earthquake in Chile” but, one, I was dying; and two, I didn’t have much material to work with in terms of appearance and beauty. But I thought I had a few decent points about “Earthquake…” so consider this like a “deleted scene” from my essay.

(Preface: I’m probably going to focus on Josefa here, and it will not be focused on beauty at all. Mostly just the problematic representation part.)

First of all, I thought it was interesting that they put Josefa in the convent when her family found out about her affair. It seems like it’s common practice for women to be put in a nunnery if they deviated from or went against social norms. In Josefa’s case, it’s a way for them to rein in her sexuality, by putting her in a place when chastity was enforced. And I’m a little confused about the timeline, but it seems like Jeronimo wasn’t put in prison until after he got Josefa pregnant? It’s very vague, but I understand it to be that Josefa was put in the convent, Jeronimo somehow (“through a lucky accident” (5)) got into the convent, got her pregnant, and was then put in jail. In that case, it rubs me the wrong way that Josefa was punished and restrained for her desires while Jeronimo wasn’t (until later). Product of the times, probably. Still.

Next, there’s this passage:

“In the streets along which the procession would pass, […] the pious daughters of the city invited their girl friends to attend the spectacle offered to divine vengeance at their sisterly side” (7)

Contextually, this is the part where they’re talking about Josefa’s execution. Strange how they make a point to only mention women when discussing Josefa’s punishment and how gleeful they seem to be to be witnessing the destruction of another woman. It reminds me of the Queen in “Little Snow-white” and how determined she was to cause the downfall of Snow-white because of her beauty. It’s representative of the competition amongst women to simply be better than one another. In the Queen’s case it’s beauty, but in this case, it appears to be about piety and purity – the “pious daughters” are more chaste than poor old Josefa. Of course, especially in the context of this story, chastity is important in religion. However, if we take the religious part of it out, it comes down to the male gaze (see tangent). Beauty and chastity are both traits that are valued for being desirable to men. With beauty and the Queen, sure it probably has something to do with vanity, but beauty is a very patriarchal thing. There are a lot of really interesting articles out there, but in terms of the male gaze, the beauty standards that women are condemned to are based on what is attractive to men (and it leads to the competition and comparisons, etc.) In terms of chastity, then – have you ever thought about the obsession society seems to have with virginity? Again, thanks patriarchy! It’s about purity and the fixation on wanting to imprint on women who haven’t been tainted by another man already (hard to explain without talking about all the other baggage, such as this superiority complex between men and women, and men and other men, the objectification of women, and the overvaluing of purity, and I really WANT to talk about it, but this is already a feminist rant with too many clauses so just go and read some articles. Just take my word for it for now and roll with it.) The competition in this case is the one in which the women here compare each other for chastity and for reasons that stem from the patriarchy (and religion).

(Tangent: I realized I could have WENT OFF about the male gaze in my essay when I got Christina’s comments back on it, especially with the focus on eyes in “The Sandman”. I totally could have linked beauty with the male gaze with Nathanael with the eyes being symbolic of the male gaze. Oh my god. Christina, can I rewrite. Please. This is too good to let go.)

Speaking of punishments, they first sentenced Josefa to burning (until it was changed to beheading, “much to the indignation of the matrons and maidens of Santiago” (7) – again, see above!). I’m assuming they would be burning her at the stake, as it’s the most popular burning method of punishment we know of that they did back in those days, which is usually associated with witch hunts. I did a veeery quick google search on punishment in the 17th century and stumbled upon this site, which listed burning at the stake as a popular method of punishment for “heretics, witches, and suspicious women”. I’m assuming for Josefa, it would be because she had a child prior to marriage – or giving in to sexual temptation to begin with – which would be heresy (so much to say about restraint of women’s sexuality and chastity here but I will hold off). Interesting to see that burning at the stake seems to be a way of punishment reserved for women though. Also interesting that there was no mention of a punishment or sentence for Jeronimo…

Further interpretations can be made about the presence of motherhood and gender roles in the story, but my thoughts in that area are kind of half-baked and not directed – although none of this, really, is directed. Take this as more of a musing about a few aspects of the story I wanted to think about more. I hope you can make some sense of it and maybe let me know what you think!

Hopkins minus religion

In the boxing match this week where it’s me vs. Hopkins, I am most definitely losing. Not only am I 5’0 and harmless, I feel like I’m also at a disadvantage not having much background knowledge in Christianity. Poetry also is not my strong suit to begin with – I don’t think I’m horrible at it, but it’s definitely not something I could do for too long. So Hopkins is basically beating up a rag doll this metaphorical boxing match.

(Tangent: I think this boxing thing is coming from the fact that I watched Southpaw the other night. Shirtless, sweaty, brooding Jake Gyllenhaal is all I need in life and more.)

Hopkins was obviously a deeply religious man and his love for God seeps through the lines of his wordy, complex poem. He wasn’t writing for anyone other than himself and he didn’t care for fame. He wrote purely out of love for the medium and, of course, for God. In reading Hopkins, it would be impossible to separate the two – he chose priesthood over poetry, after all. Without religion, his poetry probably wouldn’t exist.

But what if we did separate the two? Would it be possible to read Hopkins without having any knowledge about Christianity? What would his poetry look like without considering his religious background? Would there be any point to looking at Hopkins’ poetry without it? There is a lot of natural imagery in his poems – what is the significance of that and how does it play with religion? Questions, questions, questions…

Hobbes is so freaking cool

Thomas_Hobbes_(portrait) edit

The portrait itself was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. I just photoshopped the shades on. Please don’t sue me.

I seriously appreciate Hobbes, his theories, and the way he explains them.

Settle down, settle down. I know many of you will disagree and, believe me, there is no one more in shock than me. It seemed like it was just yesterday that I was on the brink of a mental breakdown because of Plato. I wanted to burn my copy of Republic and vowed to never take a philosophy class. Which is why I am still blown away by how much SENSE Hobbes makes.

No, Leviathan isn’t the most exciting thing to read. But Hobbes never promised he’d be writing the next Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. No one’s giving him a New York Bestsellers’ stamp to put on the front of his books. And nor is Leviathan the easiest thing to read. But we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. This is Arts One. Reading hard books is what makes us cool. (Or just massive nerds. But it’s fine. We own it.)

Hobbes’ ideas are weird. What do you mean everything we smell or see are bodies pressing my organs? What do you mean humans all want to kill each other? What do you mean we should have a single ruler that we should all submit to out of fear? But Hobbes pretty much embodies the saying, “There is method to my madness.” He may sound like a bit of a nutjob at first, but if you actually pay attention and follow along, he actually makes a lot of sense. (Except for the bit about smells and everything being external bodies that press your organs – but I’ve chalked that up to the flawed science of the medieval times. These people thought that your horoscope sign had something to do with curing illness.)

When I first heard about Hobbes, it was in my grade 12 law class and we were learning about the philosophy of law and Hobbes’ theories was explained to us as being in the category of positive law, which is, in a nutshell, that law is an institution created by people (as opposed to natural law, which is that law is something universal and innate). We were taught a very condensed version of Hobbes’ theory: “Hobbes believed that all humans are naturally violent and war-prone, therefore laws need to be created and enforced so that we don’t all kill one another.” I was offended, obviously. I’m not violent. I’m not brutish. Excuse you. (See tangent #1.) So I went into Leviathan with a mix of skepticism and curiosity. I came away enlightened – he made sense. Humans are programmed to want to survive. That’s why we flinch when something is thrown at our faces. That’s why we have the reflex to pull away if we touch something too hot. That’s why we have a “fight or flight” instinct. That’s why we want to reproduce. And we will hurt each other if we sense a threat to our well-being. We desire peace because otherwise we will all die. None of this is all that crazy, really.

(Tangent #1: On the subject of being not violent or brutish, it makes me wonder whether we are only civilized people because we have the social constructs to be civilized. If you look at it, our behaviours are all determined by social conventions and because we are bound by rules. We aren’t allowed to steal, drive recklessly, or commit fraud, because it’s punishable by law. We shouldn’t chew with our mouths open, disrespect the elderly, or hit our children, because it’s frowned upon by society. So, in my opinion, Hobbes is right. Without social order and firm laws, humans would be all over the place. Even in Plato’s Republic, he said that even a just man would choose to be unjust if he could get away with it. So in that sense, it’s not a matter of human nature. You can be a good person, but in a world where no one else is good, you’ll need to do whatever you need to to survive. In our society, we are bound to Western customs and a legal system to keep us from violent means. And thank goodness for that – I would not survive in a fistfight for my next meal.)

His idea of having a single ruler that we all submit to, in the end, isn’t all that radical either. When you break it all down, it’ll look a lot like our government now. And even if it doesn’t, it’s not like this system is cruel or tyrannical. The ruler doesn’t get his power arbitrarily – the people are supposed to bestow the power onto them willingly or because they have to, out of fear of each other. In return, the sovereign would provide social order and protection. Any power that the ruler has is given to them by the people and the people is the “Author” of the ruler’s every move. That is the social contract. And we would want this in order to be a productive and peaceful race, according to Hobbes.

Now I guess the question is, in reflection, do I agree with Hobbes? Once you separate the root of what he’s trying to say from all his definitions and his annoyinglyth archaicth styleth of writingth (see tangent #2), he’s definitely right about a lot of things. And because of how meticulously he explains things, it’s pretty hard to disagree with the logic of what he says. Unlike Plato, he doesn’t write with an air of superiority, like we won’t understand certain things because we’re not philosophers (it makes me feel like a kid again, when the grown-ups tell me I shouldn’t pipe in during a “big people” conversation). It makes me feel a little more sympathetic to Hobbes’ cause when he doesn’t sound all high and mighty (because of the remnants of childhood bitterness I mentioned above). So do I agree with him? On most things, yes. He genuinely makes sense and his ideas aren’t completely unrealistic either. (Sidebar: I do, however, believe that a state should be secular. But that’s another conversation. Bottom line is, yes, I agree with Hobbes.)

(Tangent #2: I don’t think all of Hobbes’ writing is bland and dry. I thought his use of the bird trapped in a room with a window to describe why lying is awful was pretty brilliant. And sometimes, I think he’s actually pretty poetic, like this part in the introduction: “…why may we not say that all automata […] have an artificiall life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings, and the Joynts, but so many Wheeles, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer?” I thought that was pretty beautiful. Or maybe it’s just because I read this with an audiobook narrated by a British guy. Everything sounds more elegant with a British accent.)

Holy cow, I wrote way more than I planned to or wanted to. TL;DR: Hobbes is really freaking cool and I’m really enjoying talking about his ideas and thinking about it all. Mad props to Hobbes – hope you’re doing well in the afterlife or wherever you think the soul goes after death. But I guess you don’t believe in ghosts or whatever because of the whole incorporeal business. In which case, I hope your decomposed remains are doing well. Just know that thousands of years later, we’re still reading your books and some of us think you’re pretty awesome.

Shakespeare the Social Justice Advocate



I suppose I’ll start off by saying that The Tempest was a bit of a disappointment to me.  Now don’t get me wrong. I love Shakespeare. I think he’s a genius. And The Tempest definitely had it’s moments and beautiful lines (“We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep (IV.i.155-158).” I loved that bit), but I felt that it was quite underdeveloped as far as the characters and the plot goes. Which is fine, I guess, because there are so many other things to consider BECAUSE it’s so mysterious, like different interpretations, symbols, and themes, which Shakespeare did a great job of including in this play.

Maybe my inner social justice advocate, but the interpretation that Caliban and the island is being colonized is probably my favourite. Especially (as shown in Robert’s lecture) when we look at the different ways Caliban was portrayed, from being a fishy looking (and smelling) monster, to something that looks like a gorilla of sorts, to an unmistakenably African portrayal. The fact that Shakespeare even attempted to allude to colonialism in this way is pretty amazing.

At the end of The Tempest, Prospero dismisses Caliban, telling him to clean up his cell. But he was never formally released like Ariel was, despite the fact that they were both enslaved by Prospero. It’s important to note that Caliban’s final words on stage was an apology to Prospero for trying to leave him for Trinculo and Stephano, which reminds me a lot of the cycle of abuse, or battered woman syndrome in cases of spousal abuse. Caliban and Prospero are obviously not married, but it makes me think about how a person in an abusive relationship often apologizes to their abuser and always returns to them in the end. Which makes me think that, despite the fact that Caliban was technically relieved of his post as Prospero’s wood gatherer and that he got his island back, it’s hard to say that Caliban is completely liberated. Abuse leaves its marks on the victim the same way that colonization leaves its marks on a nation. The culture, the language, the people of a colonized nation are never the same, even after the colonizer has left. Caliban had clearly been affected by Prospero’s colonization of him, with the way he apologized to Prospero and with the fact that he seemed completely okay with submitting to Trinculo and Stephano, even doing it willingly. It’s just interesting to see the parallels between Caliban and colonization, because of the historical significance, for one thing. Also, though, because it’s an interesting thing that Shakespeare chose to emphasize in his last play. Whether he did so in criticism of his country or simply as an observation can be another debate.

(Sidebar: I wrote this post waaay late, I realize. I didn’t know that it had to be BEFORE my presentation. Oops. Now I know.)

Who is this?

My name is Helen and I’m from Toronto: home of the CN Tower, Drake, and the hockey-team-that-must-not-be-named. Although I do quite miss the skyscrapers and traffic, Vancouver has been nothing but kind to me thusfar, so I’m pretty stoked to be here, especially with a group of bright-minded kids like yourselves and a stack of old books (and Christina, of course).

As for why I chose ArtsOne, I suppose I’ll have to answer with a confession – I’m a bit of an overachiever. You don’t think I can handle a full course load on top of 15 clubs and a part time job? Bring it on. That was my high school career, basically. So when I heard about the challenging pace and workload this course presented, how could I resist? Sleepless nights and over caffeination, here I come!

Joking aside, I also believe that while this course is going to be hard, it’s also going to improve my writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Pretty excited to read books and to discuss them with you all, too!

I’m the kind of person who loves talking about herself, so before I write a whole autobiography here, I’m going to end by saying that I hope to major in history (it may or may not end up being Classics), so if you’re into that too, hit me up because we’ll be best friends. I mean, we can be best friends even if you’re not into history… maybe?

Anyway, that is me, more or less. I can’t wait to find out who you all are!